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The Dangers of Escalators & Elevators (and How to Be Safe on These Top Sources for Germs and Injuries)

Elevators and escalators are a convenient and, when used carefully, fairly safe way to travel from one building floor to another. However, they are not without, quite serious, risks.

escalator injuries and germs

Children and adults can get caught in-between escalator steps and sides, leading to serious injury, including lost fingers and toes.

Nearly 10,000 people visit the emergency room each year because of escalator accidents, according to CBS News. Meanwhile, from 1992-2001 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 20 non-work related deaths of escalator passengers and 39 non-work related deaths of elevator passengers.

Knowing the risks to watch out for, and taking the following safety precautions, can keep you and your children free from harm.

Top Elevator and Escalator Risks

  1. Falls: The most deadly fall risk is falling into an elevator shaft when an elevator call button is pushed and the doors opened, but no elevator was at the floor. However, more commonly fall injuries on elevators occur from tripping when an elevator doesn't stop flush with the floor on which the door is opening.

    Falls on escalators are also common, with CPSC estimating that 75 percent of escalator injuries result from falls (such as tripping).

  2. Getting Caught: One of the most serious escalator risks, which account for 20 percent of the injuries according to CPSC, is from being caught in or between the bottom or top of an escalator, or between a moving stair and escalator sidewall.

    Young children are at particular risk of getting their hands, shoes (or dangling shoelaces) or clothing caught in the escalator, but adults' clothing can get trapped as well. When an item gets caught in the moving elevator, it quickly gets sucked in with incredible force. There are numerous reports each year of children losing toes or fingers because of this risk.

  3. Malfunctions: Malfunctions in escalators and elevators also result in injury. For instance, injuries have been reported when an escalator malfunctioned and quickly sped up or reversed its direction of movement.

  4. Germs: Elevators and escalators are among the germiest public places. Elevator buttons, and particularly the popular first-floor button, are loaded with germs. According to Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, "If you can, let someone else push it so you don't have to touch it."

Escalator handrails are also germ havens, and Gerba advises to avoiding touching them as well, if you can avoid it.

elevator injuries and germs

The first-floor elevator button is usually the germiest (because it's used most often). Avoid touching it (let someone else punch it), and if you must push it use a barrier like a PerfectClean Handwipe.

However, holding onto the handrail is an important safety tip to reduce your risk of tripping on an escalator, so instead of not holding on at all, we recommend using a PerfectClean Handwipe as a barrier. These handwipes are small enough to carry in your pocket and are simple to use between your hand and the escalator handrail.

Because they are made with commercial, hospital-grade ultramicrofiber that picks up even the germs you can't see with your naked eye, they're incredibly effective. You can also use them to push elevator buttons, and to wipe your hands off after the fact.

Elevator and Escalator Safety Tips

Sometimes you can't avoid riding on an elevator or escalator (such as if you're pushing a stroller or need to travel up 25 stories), but you can prevent most of the potential injuries by following these simple safety tips:

  • Look before you leap. Before entering an elevator, make sure it's there and that it's flush with the floor, and when you step onto an escalator, look to make sure the step is flat and fully extended.

  • Hold the handrails. This will help you stay steady on an escalator, and you can avoid germs by using a PerfectClean Handwipe between your hand and the railing. Small children should hold onto your hand.

  • Stand in the middle of the step, and don't lean on the side. This keeps you away from the sides, where clothing, hands and feet can get caught.

  • Keep clothing, shoelaces, handbags and shopping bags away from the sides of escalators. If your child's shoes are untied, be sure to tie them before getting on.

  • Watch children carefully. Keep them safely in the middle of an escalator step, hold their hand firmly, and never let them play on or near an elevator or escalator.

  • Avoid germs. Avoid touching elevator buttons or escalator handrails without using a barrier like a PerfectClean Handwipe. If you do touch the surface, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward as soon as possible.

Recommended Reading

What are the Least Safe Foods From a Contamination Perspective?

The Nine Grossest Things Other People Do That Can Make You Sick


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